Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

I made a pan of this today so Bill could take some in to work for supper.  It is nice and portable if you keep the filling separate from the bread.  He usually eats his open-faced anyway.  I already had tofu in the freezer, but if you don't, you will want to plan ahead and freeze some.  For this, you use the blocks of tofu that come in a water-filled plastic tub.  The tofu in the aseptic packages is different and is best used for other kinds of things.  So when you get your tofu home, open the package, dump the water, and wrap the block of tofu in foil or use a plastic bag.  Freeze.  When you want to use it, thaw it out, squeeze the water out, and crumble the tofu.  Freezing changes the texture, so you can use the crumbles just like ground turkey or beef, or those meat analogues and this is a much better vegetarian option than the latter.  I like to keep some blocks of tofu in the freezer, so I will have them on hand.

1 block of tofu,packed in water, that has been drained, frozen, thawed and crumbled
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups of frozen corn or a can,if that's what you've got
Saute the above ingredients in the oil of your choice--I use olive oil.  Add the sauce and let simmer for 10 or 15 minutes.

1 cup of tomato sauce, ketchup, or tomato paste that has been thinned with water--or any combination of these--I use tomato products that do not have added salt, because I do not like a lot of salt, but it is up to you.  If you use ketchup, the end result will be a bit sweeter.
3-4 tablespoons sugar
2-3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard--whatever kind you like/have--I've used yellow, Dijon, brown, spicy, and this time I used some Maine maple mustard
black pepper to taste
Whisk together.  You can make this a day or two beforehand and keep in fridge if you want. 

When I made this today, I had some leftover roasted potatoes, so I threw those in, too.

Serve on rolls with the insides scooped out a little (save these for bread crumbs) or open faced on the bread of your choice.  You could also have it over rice if you wanted or just eat it on its own.

If you wanted to make this with ground turkey or beef, it will work just fine--just brown the meat with the veggies before adding the sauce.  You could also use leftover cooked turkey, chicken, beef, or pork that has been diced or shredded.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cranberry Orange Bread in the Bread Machine (Low Sodium)

Here is the recipe for the orange-cranberry bread I made yesterday in my bread machine.  It came out great even without the salt, but if you are not paying attention to sodium and prefer to add salt, you can add a teaspoon to the rest of the ingredients.

1 cup of orange juice
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2 tablespoons dry milk
1/4 cup brown or white sugar
1 cup cranberries--I used berries that I had in the freezer and let them sit on the counter for a couple of hours before making the bread--they probably weren't totally thawed, but they were at least partially thawed
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

Use whole wheat setting on your machine.

Pumpkin Pudding

I was thinking about possible breakfast foods for the next couple of days.  I remembered that I had a container of orange juice in the freezer.  I had bought a gallon a few months ago for something and it didn't all get used, so I put the rest in the freezer.  I also have a 2 pound bag of cranberries left in the freezer from when I went to the cranberry harvest festival with my friend, Nicki, in the fall.  So I decided to make some cranberry-orange bread, but I wanted something to go with it--something with a bit of protein in it.  I could have planned to put peanut butter on the bread, but Bill is not overly fond of peanut butter!  Then I remembered that I had a recipe for pumpkin pudding in a notebook where I started writing down recipes. I wrote it down years ago--pre-1995, because we were still living in Portland, OR.  I never made this recipe, but since I had a can of pumpkin in the cabinet, I decided to find the recipe and see what it entailed.  Happily, I had all of the ingredients and it even calls for orange juice, so I was able to use up what was left from the container after I made the bread.  It came out quite well.  It said to chill well but I tried some warm and it is very like pumpkin pie filling.  It's yummy warm and I will know tomorrow how it is cold.  As usual, I changed amounts a bit and tweaked the ingredients very slightly. I also made two batches so I could use up the whole can of pumpkin and the orange juice. I have no idea where the recipe came from, but here it is as I made it.

Microwave 1 cupof nonfat milk in the microwave for 3 minutes.

Whisk in 5 tablespoons of orange juice, 4 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup canned or pureed pumpkin or winter squash, 1 egg, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla.  Cover and microwave for 4 minutes more.

Chill or eat warm.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Chip Rolls

This afternoon after we got home from Bill's occupational therapy appointment, I decided to make some chocolate chip rolls using the bread machine and no added salt.  I was hoping that the heat of the machine would melt the chocolate chips a little and mix in the chocolate--and it worked!  They came out great.  Yay!We had some plain while they were still warm, but I think they would be great with peanut or almond butter, too.

Chocolate Chip Rolls in the Bread Machine (whole grain and low sodium)
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon dry milk
2 tablespoons butter or oil
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
about a cup of chocolate chips
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (or 1 packet if you are using the little envelopes--I buy my yeast in bulk, freeze most of it, and keep a small jar in the fridge)

Select the dough setting (or the whole grain setting if you want it to be bread instead of rolls), and let the machine do its thing.  I always check the dough ball to make sure it isn't too dry or too wet and add liquid or more oats as needed--just a bit at a time.  When the dough is done, remove it from the pan, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then roll into a rope with your hands, slice, and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Cover with a towel and let rise for about an hour.  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until they are very lightly browned on top.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Potato Balls

We have come to the end of another successful food day!  Sodium well under 1000mg for the day.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs (2) with toast made with the no-salt bread I made the other day spread with unsalted butter and an orange.  Lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich (no-salt bread and unsalted butter again) made with Swiss cheese and tomato and onion slices and an organic Gala apple on the side.  Quite tasty. 

For supper I made pollock with oregano and chili powder, carrots, and potato balls.  I have never been a huge eater of fish, so have not cooked it much.  When we moved west and then north, I ate a lot of salmon and learned to cook that in various ways--Alaska has done a very good job with their fisheries, so their wild salmon is good to eat, but I won't eat Atlantic salmon or farmed salmon of any kind.  Once my Eskimo sister gave me a shee fish and I had no idea what to do with it, so I asked my advisor at the university.  I was laughing at the thought of my PhD advisor drawing diagrams of this fish so I would know what to do in case I needed to clean it (I didn't).  I soon got over my cluelessness and when a processing company trucked salmon up from southeast Alaska to Fairbanks to give away to anyone who came to take it (they had stripped the eggs and didn't want the fish), there we were with our cooler.  I still did a terrible job at filleting, but I did it and the fish was good.  Anyway, I ended up stuffing that sheefish and now I usually end up just baking fish after sprinkling herbs on top.  I will have to expand the repertoire.  The potato balls were inspired by the recipe for Potato Poppers in the New Laurel's Kitchen cookbook.  As I never make anything exactly as the recipe states, I have adapted it to suit my needs and really, I make it slightly differently each time, depending on what I have in the house.

I will give amounts below, but these are not set in stone and you can use more or less depending on what you have and your tastes.  The important thing is to end up with a mixture that is not extremely wet, but is wet enough to hold together when you shape it into balls.  You can easily double or halve the recipe.  Leftovers are good hot or cold.

about 2 cups of mashed potatoes (use leftovers or make them for this, or bake a few extra potatoes, mash the insides and keep in fridge for use in these)

about 1 cup of cooked brown rice

1/8-1/4 cup tomato paste (this will depend on how wet your potatoes are--I think leftover marinara sauce would work quite well, too)

1/4- 1/2 cup whole grain bread crumbs (I took the end of my no-salt bread, broke it into chunks, put it in the food processor with the steel blade and gave it a whirl--used 1/4 cup for this and froze the rest)

1/4 cup of cheese (I used finely diced Swiss and cheddar tonight, but I have also used Parmesan)

1 onion, finely chopped and half a bell pepper or a stalk of celery, also finely chopped--saute these in a tablespoon of oil

Put everything in a bowl and mix together well.  Using your hands, shape into balls about the size of golf balls.  Place on greased cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Collecting Leftovers

I am starting to get a small collection of leftovers in the fridge again.  I like this.  A couple of weeks ago when Bill came home in the middle of his stroke, I was in the process of putting dough in the bread machine to make a Mexican pizza which would have given us leftovers for that weekend.  Instead, I rode to the hospital in an ambulance and spent the next several days tossing things into jars to eat cold while sitting in his room.  Now that things are settling down a little I can get back into my normal cooking routine with a few tweaks to accommodate his sodium diet.  I have realized that with a couple of simple substitutions, it will be pretty difficult for us to exceed the 2000mg of sodium per day limit if I just keep on doing what I have been doing.  This means I do not really have to keep a running tally of the daily sodium intake.  I will make our refried beans from now on and yesterday I made a loaf of bread in the machine with no salt added.  It did cave in a little, which is apparently not uncommon when you leave out the salt, but I think the dough ball was a little too wet, too, and that may have contributed.  In any case, it's a good basic whole grain loaf with virtually no sodium that I can vary in many ways.  By making this bread instead of buying it, I don't really have to worry about what goes between the slices in a sandwich (the sodium could add up quickly if we piled on cold cuts or something, but we don't buy those, so it would be a little peanut butter or a couple of slices of Swiss cheese or something like that), because the sodium content of the bread is virtually nothing.  This saves between 240 and 340 mg of sodium per 2 slices, based on the bread I looked at in the store.  So I will keep a supply of this on hand, using the basic recipe and whatever variations I can think of to make bread and dough for rolls, flatbread, pizza crust, etc.

We still have curried rice from yesterday in the fridge and some leftovers from tonight.  I made some pasta with sausage and veggies.  Heather had her pasta with just sauce; Bill had his with everything; and I had mine without the sauce but with the sausage and veg.  I used the last of our sausage from the farm and cooked it in some olive oil (it's very lean, so without the oil, it sticks) with my usual onions and peppers.  I threw in some peas and Italian seasoning, too.  So I have a couple more suppers in the fridge, some cooked brown rice, which I like to keep handy, and some leftover pasta that Heather will probably eat for lunch within a couple of days.  I will probably make some potato poppers with some of the rice and some of the leftover tomato paste within the next couple of days.  I always make extra when I make those, so there will be more leftovers.  I like having stuff that I can heat up fast if I need to--saves a trip for take-out or something else that's quick.  Much healthier, tastier, and more frugal to be prepared with some leftovers instead of getting something already made!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Curried Fried Rice

Grocery shopping on foot again today!  We used to do this all the time when we lived in southern Oregon.  We would each grab our big backpack and walk a mile to the store, stuff the groceries into our bags and walk back home.  In Niagara Falls, the two best grocery stores were not within walking distance, so we would drive to them every other week and shop.  Then one day Bill was walking to the library and his knee suddenly popped and he literally could not walk for a little while.  He managed to get to the in-town grocery store (that had much higher prices than where we shopped) where there were always cabs idling.  The people at the library said he could not use their phone, so he had to make his way to the cabs and a walk that would normally have taken 5 or 10 minutes took him 45.  Eventually his knee healed, but he was nervous about carrying big loads on his back, since it would still give a twinge every now and then.  So we would walk to the grocery store--closer here than it was in Oregon--when we had to pick up a few things, but not to do our regular grocery shopping.  Now we're back to it.  It's just like old times!  Now I have to make sure I keep an eye on how much things weigh so I don't end up trying to carry too much.  Since Bill still gets tired easily, today he carried the eggs and a plant we'd bought and I carried the rest--about 34 pounds of stuff.  I still had room in my backpack, but I didn't want to push it.  I was OK carrying that, but for the moment, I would not want to go above 40 pounds, nor would I want to have to carry that much for a longer distance--at least not until I am used to it again.  Still, I feel better about walking than I do about using a vehicle, so I am glad we are doing this once again and I am glad that the local grocery store is the one we shop at anyway and that we are not in the same situation as we were in Niagara Falls.

Last night we had frozen Newman's pizza for supper.  We had been to the hospital and to see the cardiologist and we spent 2 1/2 hours there.  Then we walked home and had to stop at the grocery store pharmacy to get a pill cutter.  I was going to make fried rice for supper, but it was getting late and I was tired.  Bill had a lot of sodium available in his daily sodium budget, so we went ahead and got the pizza--it was quick and he still met his quota for the day.  I was grateful that I did not have to cook and clean up.  I made the rice tonight instead.

Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan.  I used olive oil, but you can use whatever you like.  Chop vegetables into fairly small pieces.  I used onion, a couple of jalapenos, and a few carrots. I cooked these in the oil, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, then I added some green beans I had frozen over the summer and stirred those around.  I sprinkled some curry powder (I probably used about 1 or 1 1/2 tablepoons) over this and stirred for a few minutes more.  I spooned in some cooked brown rice and mixed that in to heat.  I beat 5 eggs and poured them over the whole thing, mixing until eggs were cooked.  The number of eggs you use will depend on how much of the veggie/rice mixture you have--you might need to use more or you may need less. use any veggies you like/have and use frozen if you want.  Peas and broccoli would be good additions, as would cabbage.  Bill commented that he thought potatoes would be good. It's up to you!  This made enough to feed 4 people, so we do have leftovers.  I like leftovers because we frequently have them for lunch, so this is a good thing.  It is easy to make more or less of this, though, so adjust according to your needs!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


A week and a half ago, Bill had a mild stroke cause by the atrial fibrillation he has apparently had for years, but was unaware of.  He stayed in hospital for a few days and came home a week ago.  One doctor told him not to worry about sodium, since his blood pressure was fine.  Another doctor said he should be on a "2-gram-a-day" sodium diet.  We had to choose which advice to take.  Since it could do no harm to pay attention to sodium intake, we decided to do just that.  I was curious anyway, because I do not use many processed foods which are so high in sodium and I do not use salt in cooking or at the table.  I also don't measure, unless I am baking, so this required a little more attention to amounts instead of just tossing things in pots and pans!  It's been a very interesting week.  There has only been one day where he has come anywhere close to 2000mg of sodium.  Most days he is below 1000, and some days between 1000 and 1500.  I have learned that there are hardly any adjustments for us to make, although there are a few.

The biggest contributor to our sodium intake was sausage,cheese, and Mexican food, like refried beans and salsa.  I sometimes make my own beans, and in summer I make salsa when tomatoes are in season, but we do use canned beans and salsa in a jar for convenience.  I will simply make my own from now on.  It was such Mexican fare that accounted for the higher sodium intake on Saturday.

Since I have lots of salsa and had a couple of cans of beans in the cabinet, I decided to just go ahead and use some, making sure Bill still came in under his limit.  I paid attention to how much sodium he had before supper and then knew how much leeway I had for the rest of the day.  We did make one substitution.  He usually likes to have his beans, salsa, etc on a whole wheat tortilla.  I checked the bag and one tortilla contains 500 mg of sodium!  That wasn't going to work, so we got corn tortillas instead, with a negligible amount, and I crisped them in the oven.  I carefully measured the beans, salsa, and finely shredded cheese.  I did not use all of the beans because there were too many and I discovered that while the 2 tablespoon serving size on the salsa label seemed like very little, it was about what I would have put on anyway. 

One of the things we have learned is that we were already doing pretty well in terms of limiting our sodium intake--and this was simply a natural consequence of eating actual food.  I am paying attention a little bit more now, but this seems like quite a doable thing.  I do not know that I will be quite as attentive going forward--I no longer keep a tally of sodium mgs on a piece of scrap paper, adding them up as I go along.  Bill can still have the cashews he loves and some of the cold cereal he likes to snack on at work (he keeps a box of Cheerios there and he can still have them, he will just have to pay attention to how much he is eating, which is not a bad thing).  I have discovered that Swiss cheese has less sodium than the extra sharp cheddar we used to buy.  I found recipes to make my own sausage and I will probably give it a try--I think I can find good quality pork at my local winter market. 

Today Bill will come in at less than 700mgs--or a few more if he has some cashews later.  We had oatmeal with cranberry jam (which I made with cranberries from the freezer) for breakfast, for lunch he had brown rice with veggies, Parmesan cheese (measured, of course!) and pasta sauce (that I made using no-salt added tomato paste), and for supper we are having turkey burgers and baked potato wedges.  I found some ground turkey that had not been injected with all of that high-sodium broth, and the naturally-occuring amount of sodium in the turkey is almost nothing.  I did add an egg , so that adds a bit, but I use oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs so there was no extra there.  The main contributor will be the bread and the swiss cheese.  We found some no-salt ketchup, so we got that, and he mnight have some mustard, so that'll add a bit. 

I can see that once in a while, he might go over--if we went out to eat, for example.  But we rarely do that, so it isn't something we are going to worry about.  Now that I have a little more sense of what the sodium content of various foods is, and how much I am using, I think that I will be able to keep him pretty well under the 2000mg limit with a minimum of fuss.  That's good.